Indian National Congress Party has asked its State committees to foot the travel bill of every needy migrant labourer who is availing the special train facility being organised by the central government. In a statement, Party President Sonia Gandhi said it will be her party's "contribution in service of our compatriots and to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them".
The politically significant move was taken after the Railways Ministry decided to charge lakhs of workers and migrant labourers who want to return to their homes and families in the wake of extended lockdown to prevent COVID-19 outbreak."There is neither adequate money nor provision for free transport. What is particularly disturbing is that the Central Government and the Rail Ministry are charging them for train tickets in this hour of crisis", the Congress statement said.
In a scathing attack, Gandhi said the Government was spending nearly Rs 100 crores on transport and food for just one public programme in Gujarat. She also added that the Rail Ministry had donated Rs 151 crore to the PM's Corona fund, but was not ensuring free rail travel to the needy.
She blamed the central government's short notice of just four hours prior to the lockdown for the current plight of workers and migrant labourers. "Post the partition of 1947, this is the first time India witnessed a tragedy with such a massive human cost as thousands of migrant workers and labourers were forced to walk home several hundred kilometres on foot- without food, without medicines, without money, without transportation, without anything except for the desire to return to their families and loved ones", Gandhi said.
The statement claimed that the Congress Party has been raising this issue from the outset of the lockdown. "There needs to be provisions for the safe and free rail travel of migrant workers and labourers to their home-towns. However, despite our repeated demands, the Central Government and the Rail Ministry have chosen to completely ignore the same", she added.
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